Anno Dracula by Kim Newman – Book Review

As a English Literature undergraduate I find it hard to squeeze in time to read my own books and my reading schedule tends to be off a reading list. It was a complete joy to read a book without considering too much of the analytical side of it and Anno Dracula was the perfect book to read for pleasure, yet at the same time kept the literature student inside me ticking along at the same time.

Newman drops us into an alternate 1888 where the infamous Count Dracula has successfully infiltrated England and turned beloved monarch Queen Victoria into a vampire, weird huh? Vampirism is spreading like a new craze of iPhone which raises new conflict as to which side citizens choose to be on. Proceedings pull together Genevieve Dieudonne, a 400 year old ancient vampire and Charles Beauregard, a member of the mysterious Diogenes Club. There has been a series of vampire prostitutes being murdered in the Whitechapel area, sound familiar? The pair are set on the case of finding the renowned murderer Jack The Ripper as he slashes his way around the streets of London. Newman’s plot throws in many twists and turns as the couple close in on the killer.

However on top of all these goings on, we have Dr Jekyll, Mycroft Holmes, Dr John Seward and the Stokers all appearing as characters within the novel. Each and every character holds some sort of reference to another famous literary figure, either of the time or from another vampiric tale. Newman clearly knows his vampire tales and provides references to many films and books on vampires whilst remaining loyal to the earliest works of Polidori and Stoker himself. Some reviews I read of the book before reading found this annoying and thought it added nothing to the book. I completely disagree. As a literature student, reading and understanding references to other works was a joy and the allusions added a depth to the novel that brought it to life. I feel as though these characters were given another dimension as though they exist outside of the boundaries of the books they originate in. Newman brings them new life and they live on beautifully in his work. The novel has obviously been well crafted by a passionate vampire fan and it was fantastic to get lost in this alternate world.

The plot brings a lot of action and mystery which is perfect for me, and the eerie backdrop of a vampiric London adds to the mystery and the atmosphere. I wasn’t happy to reach the last page, it did end suddenly to my utter distaste but I suppose in some ways, it must have been good for me to be so disappointed! I will certainly be reading the next instalment of Newman’s series which I believe is now a quartet of books following the same characters in different time frames. I would highly recommend this book, although, I would recommend a base knowledge of the Dracula story to understand some of the development paths of some characters that are integral to the novel. Overall a fantastically written book that provided the needed rest from my usual reading.

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